China adopts new land border law amid military impasse with India
China on Saturday passed a new law to strengthen land border protection amid the ongoing military tension along the disputed boundary with India, firming up the military-civilian role in defending the country’s borders.
The legislation formalises combining the military defence of China’s land borders with improving social and economic development in border areas.
It further strengthens the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) policy to work closely with civilians staying in border areas - for example, Tibetan villagers living along the border with India, Bhutan and Nepal - to work as the first line of defence.
Long-standing border disputes should be resolved through negotiations, the new law adds, according to Chinese official media.
India and China have been locked in a border row for 17 months, a phase that witnessed the deadly skirmish in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on June 15, 2020 when troops from both sides fought for hours with iron rods, clubs covered with barbed wire and rocks.
Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash, the first fatalities on the Line of Actual Control since 1975; four Chinese soldiers were killed and one was injured as well.
China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Saturday voted to adopt the “…new law on the protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas, which will take effect on January 1, 2022”, the news agency Xinhua reported.
The law will now govern how China guards its 22,000-km (13,670-mile) land border shared with 14 countries, including Russia, nuclear-capable North Korea and Mongolia besides India and Bhutan - two countries Beijing has land border disputes with.
The state, the law says: “…shall take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and guard against and combat any act that undermines territorial sovereignty and land boundaries.”
The law, which has 62 articles, stipulates that the state “…shall take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and guard against and combat any act that undermines territorial sovereignty and land boundaries”, it says.
The law stipulates that the state shall take measures to “…strengthen border defence, support economic and social development as well as opening-up in border areas, improve public services and infrastructure in such areas, encourage and support people’s life and work there, and promote coordination between border defence and social, economic development in border areas”.
The law “stipulates the relevant responsibilities” of the PLA, the armed militia, and local governments to support and coordinate border defence and management of areas at the border and the building of border infrastructure.
Article 7 says: “Under the leadership of the Central Military Commission, relevant military organs shall organise, guide and coordinate the defence and control of land borders, maintain social stability, handle emergencies and cooperate in border defence and other related work.”
The law laid out that the state has to nurture border towns and improve their overall “supporting capacity”.
China has already built hundreds of border villages - by some counts more than 600 - across the country’s borders in Tibet.
Article 43 of the law says: “The state supports the construction of border towns, improves the system of border towns, improves the functions of border towns and strengthens the construction of supporting capacity.”
On the issue of resolving border disputes, the law says: “The state shall, following the principle of equality, mutual trust, and friendly consultation, handle land border related-affairs with neighbouring countries through negotiations to properly resolve disputes and longstanding border issues.”
Gao Jinlu, from the foreign affairs committee of the NPC was quoted as saying by state media, that the land border law establishes a standardised legal framework for managing China’s land border affairs.
President Xi Jinping signed orders to promulgate the law.
Li Zhanshu, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, presided over the closing meeting of the 31st session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee, which ran from Tuesday to Saturday.